10 People Get Real About What They Actually Spend On Food

Buckle up for some premium ~grocery content~ friends!

A month or so ago, I mentioned my grocery budget in a post here on TFD. Our grocery schedule and budget changes weekly, because Drew’s schedule is so unpredictable –- but generally, we go shopping once a month at a wholesale place like BJs or Costco, then twice a month at a smaller place (usually Trader Joe’s because your girl loves those prices, but sometimes Stop & Shop). Our BJs trip usually costs around $100, and the smaller in-between trips are usually $40-60 depending on exactly what I get. This makes for a pretty reasonable grocery budget, although sometimes, it feels all wrong. Some weeks, I feel like we have extra and are throwing away food, and likely overspending. Some weeks, it feels like I’m trying to scrape shitty leftovers together to create some semblance of a meal that is usually rounded out with a bowl of cereal.

It is safe to say I haven’t hit my “grocery shopping sweet-spot” yet. But I want to establish some sort of regularity in that routine, and create a budget that actually works. Aside from trial-and-error, and simply making note of my grocery-store habits and tracking what actually gets eaten, what seems to be lacking, and how much we’re spending on all of it, I have another way I plan to figure out what works -– copying everyone who has it right.

I, like many other people my age trying to pave their way in the real world, loooove to compare myself to others. So, I decided to go around and ask a bunch of people to let me get really nosy about their grocery shopping habits.

I asked people what they spent, what they’re spending it on, how much of it they actually use, and what they think they’re doing right (and wrong) when it comes to buying food. Additionally, I questioned them about how much of their grocery store food shopping is supplemented with meals out. Everyone had something different to say, which I love (she says sarcastically) because I’m still confused about how much I should be spending on my weekly vegetable haul.

But it was insightful, nevertheless. I asked 10 people to be super-honest with me about what they actually spend on food -– this is what they had to say.

1. “I spend probably only $150 per month, but I’m only shopping for myself, I don’t get a ton, and it is all organic and lasts me a while. This is mostly groceries and not really restaurant food. I also have a Halo Top addiction that is quite severe.” –- Maggie

2. “My wife and I are on complete opposite schedules at the moment so our food budget is almost entirely takeout stuff, which is financially gross, I know. But it is temporary, and we cook every night when our schedules align, so I don’t feel too bad about kind of leaning for convenience during this busy time for us. I buy breakfast and lunch at work, and usually find something to eat at home for dinner, and she eats at home in the morning and then always buys something in the evening because she works late. I think I spent roughly $50-60/week at the moment on takeout food, and probably the same for her. Then we also have been doing once a month food shopping costing no more than $75 just for some basics to keep here for the small meals we do cook at home. Our positions at work will be shifting a bit soon and we’ll be back on a normal schedule, and spending probably $300 a month. We’re definitely more conservative about our food budget when we’re working regular 9-to-5 schedules and cooking every night.” — Brendan

3. “I do all of my budgeting weekly, so it isn’t like what I spend ‘per month,’ but I spend about $50 per week on food total.” — Jake

4. “I live with my boyfriend and we are in our late twenties, very active, and collectively spend at least $500 a month. I’ve been using Amazon getting groceries delivered because we both work full time, and grocery shopping is one of those things that I don’t necessarily enjoy, so I was happy to pay a premium to cut that activity out of my weekly schedule. That number is also including dinners out/takeout nights, which are generally Friday and Saturday and sometimes even Sunday. We usually do go out or order food twice a week. I just include that with my grocery shopping food budget, because it is non-negotiable. I’m all for living frugally, but I love food and I’m not interested in giving in there. I’d rather cut other things if I need to because I enjoy cooking and going out to restaurants so much.” — Sasha

5. “I separate my food shopping from my restaurant-going budgets, because I consider them different things. Food shopping budget for the month (family of two) is about $350 –- however, we tend to keep it a little under and end up around the $320-330 mark, so I might adjust that soon if the pattern keeps on. I put my restaurant-food budget in with my ‘going out/miscellaneous’ budget that is mostly just money for all entertainment purposes. The budget itself is $200, but the portion of that budget that goes for food is probably more like $100-150.” — Amanda

6. “My two roommates and I do our shopping together, just because we like to get a lot of the same things, but things are often not sold in small enough packaging for one person to go through the entire thing before it goes bad. We found that sharing stuff means that we actually use all of the food up and waste less. We just do a big shopping trip once per month and usually end up spending about $150 each when we split up the bill. We also each supplement by like, buying food out some nights or picking up something we want if we’re coming home late, or other sorts of recreational food purchasing.” — Libby

7. “I do not budget. Lol. Not for food or anything, really. I will estimate that I spend about $75/week on food. I’m actually not sure if that is a lot for someone who lives alone, but that’s my guess. I do well financially and I’m not too worried about it. But I do feel like I have a lot of leftover food that goes bad and needs to get tossed before I get around to it, so I may need to reconsider and figure a better food system out for myself.” — Tim

8. “I think it is assumed that people who are vegan spend a lot on fancy organic/gourmet food, but I spend on average $200 per month on food or less. Often closer to $150. I assume just because meat can be quite expensive and that’s something that just isn’t in my budget.” — Kaitlyn

9. “$80 per week on food, including going out. I’ll usually spend anywhere between $40 and 60 at the store depending on what I know my plans will be for the week, and set a pretty tight going out budget. Obviously, if I don’t spend all $80 in one week on anything, I roll it over, so I can go out to a more expensive meal or something if I want to for any reason. In general, though, I steer clear of that mostly for money reasons. I’m not huge on going out so I’d much rather just cook food for cheap and stay on budget.” — Christian

10. “Since I have a really young daughter — just under a year old — I do count her food in the budget. She eats solids, but very small amounts. I’d say our budget for all three of us is $400 a month at the moment, but I definitely see it going up as she starts to eat more and I need to buy more kid foods instead of just giving her bites of our fruit.” — Shannon

Mary writes every day for TFD, and tweets every day for her own personal fulfillment. Talk to her about money and life at mary@thefinancialdiet.com!

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  • alyjarrett

    Great topic, and one I feel a little guilty about since individually I spend $500/month total on food, and that’s not including the free breakfasts and lunches I get every day at work! I’d say 25% of that is my half of our Blue Apron cost, 25% is misc. groceries, and the remaining 50% is eating out. My food budget is less than 10% of my take-home pay, but I realize that many people would find it absolutely outrageous for one person.

  • alexis

    I love roundups like this because I also think it’s interesting to compare myself to others! I spend probably $325ish on food (groceries, dining out, fast food) per month. With alcohol and coffee it could go up as high as $375/month. I definitely could do better with dining out costs, but because I love going to restaurants I don’t feel too guilty!

  • Great post. Always fun to see other people’s budgets. I would be fine living on Buddha bowls which would bring the grocery budget down nicely. As a family, we budget $480/m for groceries at the current time. I would like to get back into meal prep. I think that could help lower the amount too.

  • Jack

    money talk + food = my fave.
    I live in Vancouver, BC and my bf and I are both vegan and he has a very active job, so we go through things like rice and produce really quickly. We are also both smoothie addicts and spend a fair amount on things like moringa, spirulina, maca, etc..
    We also love treats like non dairy Ben and Jerry’s, Bark Thins, which REALLY add up. But we don’t eat out a ton, don’t have latte habits, and don’t spend on alcohol at all.
    I think we probably spend 500-600CAD a month for the both of us, which includes anything out (smoothies, Chipotle, etc) I am well aware that I could bring this number down, but it’s just not a huge priority for me right now.

    • Name

      I also live in Vancouver and spend about 500-600 CAD a month on food for my boyfriend and myself, this includes one meal a week out. We aren’t vegan, but don’t eat a whole lot of meat, and have a fairly healthy diet – very limited processed foods, not many treats etc.Vancouver is a pricey city, and I’ve been trying to get the food budget down to $400 per month or less, but I just can’t seem to do it without sacrificing things we enjoy to eat!

      • Jack

        Right?! We live right downtown and bf usually goes to Costco on the way home from work in Burnaby, or we do weekend trips to Superstore with the car. But I still can’t avoid IGA and Nesters, things I need to grab during the work day that I need that night.
        Would love to chat more about Vancity grocery budgeting, hmu on IG @the.vancity.vegans

        • Name

          We’re in Kits and do Superstore occasionally when I feel like making the trek out, or we do bulk foods at Costco and weekly shops at IGA, Safeway or SaveOn. Followed on IG 🙂

  • jdub

    I love this! We are a family of two (with 2 dogs) and we also try as much as we can to avoid any grains + sugars, so our grocery bills thankfully stay pretty reasonable. I cover the groceries (for the most part), and it usually only runs me about $50/week to stock up on whatever we need. I tend to buy meats that are on sale so that helps keep the costs down; what I get each week is different but the budget usually stays between $40-60/week.

  • nicolacash

    I think #8 Kaitlyn is my twin – vegan who spends between $150-$200 per month on just myself. I just bought an extra set of meal prep containers though, so my goal is to lower it to the $100-$150 range 🙂

  • Taylor

    Love this!

    I live in Chicago, IL, and work full time. My boyfriend and I split groceries, and it comes out to about $160/person every month. We shop every weekend and are pretty good about not buying too many unnecessary snacks. Usually, we will plan what we’re going to eat for every meal that week (e.g. smoothie for breakfast, egg salad sandwich/canteloupe/crackers for lunch, stirfry and fried rice for dinner). We cook dinner fresh every night instead of “Sunday meal prepping” because food gets sad and soggy as the week goes on.

    Sometimes it gets tedious to eat the same thing by the time Thursday/Friday rolls around, but the cost savings and being able to cook on autopilot allow us to enjoy restaurants as a treat. That said, I am trying to improve my cooking skills and make eating at home feel luxurious.

    In terms of eating out, I spend about $160/month on restaurants. This is primarily on the weekends with my boyfriend, with the occasional work happy hours, trivia nights, and lunch outings factored in. Most people at the ad agency I work at will get takeout out for lunch, but luckily everyone congregates in the kitchen to eat, so I don’t feel too much FOMO.

    • Mary Harman

      Nice! I live in Chicago too. Thanks for sharing!

      This feels pretty similar to my experience as well. I would do a couple ~$75 grocery trips per month when living alone. I had some rough hours at the time, so it occasionally went up when I opted for things that were more convenient to make rather than more involved/cheaper recipes (like buying precooked chicken breasts for salads rather than buying it and cooking the chicken myself). You always pay for convenience!

  • Claire

    This is a great post and I would love to see a specific breakdown for some of these things. I usually do a haul for my husband and myself on Sundays that costs about $100 for our food Monday through Friday, but we often have to do another small trip for weekend food, so we average about $130 per week. We rarely eat out and both are gone for much of the day which leads to buying more snacks like dried fruit, cliff bars, crackers etc. on top of the normal meat/produce/dairy which I think is driving my costs up. I’m also wondering if any of these budgets include wine/beer/liquor that people drink at home…buying a six pack or bottle of wine at the store can definitely drive the prices up as well. Also buying coffee to brew at home adds up, but is better than buying it out!